Professor makes face shields for those responding to COVID-19

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The Wright Education Building, normally buzzing with students, now stands mostly silent – but one room in the building has been staying busy. The Make, Innovate, Learn Lab (MILL), a makerspace full of equipment meant to empower students to be creative, has a new and potentially life-saving job: it’s being used to create face shields to protect people in healthcare and emergency services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adam Maltese, Associate Professor and Director of the MILL, wanted to figure out a way to help when he kept hearing friends in the medical field say they didn’t have enough protective gear. He and Mark Smith from IU Opera started worked together, with Smith sourcing material for the shields, and after making a prototype they were able to create a face shield through a simple, multi-step process.

I’m just trying to find a way to help and feel less powerless against this virus.

Adam Maltese
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First, Smith cuts 12 by 10-inch blanks from larger sheets of clear plastic material. Maltese cuts a basic design into a shield shape and includes holes for straps. The blanks are placed in the laser cutter, and the design is cut out of the blanks. Once the blanks are cut they peel off the protective coating and place them in a heat press usually used for t-shirts. The shields are “cooked” in the press to make them moldable, and then placed on a cylinder to give them a curve. After molding, the shields are left to cool, retaining their curved shape. One-inch elastic straps that have been cut to size, along with a clip for adjustment, are attached to the shields to allow them to be tightened for each individual. Finally, a piece of foam is added so that the shield is cushioned on the forehead and allows for glasses, masks or other gear to be worn under the shield.

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Maltese hopes they’ll have 50 shields ready for delivery on Friday. The shields will be used at the IU Health Center and the IU Police Department – and will hopefully make a difference for those first responders.

“I’m just trying to find a way to help and feel less powerless against this virus,” Maltese said.

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